The Music, Language, and Culture Workshop

Alumnus Chun-Bin Chen to present in EthNoise!


EthNoise! is thrilled be collaborating with the Arts and Politics of East Asia workshop to welcome Professor Chun-Bin Chen of Taipei National University of the Arts to present on his current research, “Highway Nine Musical Stories: Musicking of Taiwanese Aborigines at Home and in the National Concert Hall.”



Taking “On the Road,” a musical theater production of Taiwan’s National Theater and Concert Hall as an example, this paper deals with musical modernity of Taiwanese Aborigines. Premiered in 2010, “On the Road” was a collaboration between Taiwan National Symphony Orchestra and Puyuma Aboriginal musicians from Nanwang Village. Located on the southeast coast of Taiwan, this village is connected with the National Concert Hall by Highway Nine, at a distance of about 230 miles. Beneath the simple plot of the musical about how a Han-Taiwanese musician brought the Aboriginal musicians to perform at the Hall, there seems to be another story being narrated through the performance of the songs. This hidden story is an Aboriginal musical story spanning the time from the period of Japanese colonial rule (1895-1945) to recent years when Aboriginal musicians have achieved recognition in Taiwan’s music industry. By examining how the songs were composed and how they were performed at the both ends of Highway Nine, I aim to trace trajectories of contemporary Puyuma Aboriginal music. The trajectories indicate impacts of the Japanese school song education, assimilation policies of Japanese and Chinese governments, and the Modern Folksong Movement. The Aborigines’ musicking, however, demonstrates a form of aboriginality celebrating family values and indigenous identity as a response to the musical modernity related to the settler impacts. This study thus may help us understand how socio-cultural interactions between the Aborigines and settlers shape contemporary Aboriginal music and how the Aborigines create, convey and perceive its meanings through musicking.


Professor Chen earned his PhD in 2007 from the University of Chicago ethnomusicology department, where his dissertation was titled “Voices of Double Marginality: Music, Body, and Mind of Taiwanese Aborigines in the Post-Modern Era.”

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